KEEPING THINGS THIN

I am really impressed by the title I have coined. I thought of a title that wouldn’t be boring but at the same time help me to convey my message. I hope I have succeeded. Today I want to talk about two things- weight and savings. Weight in terms of body weight and being physically fit. Savings in terms of personal finance, spending less, and ,simply, money in the bank. These two things, I have always wanted to keep in check. I have always wanted to look thinner. I have always wanted to spend less. So that’s my topic. And I believe it is possible to do these things by not overwhelming oneself. Do few things in order to have control over your life. Or more poetically, keep things thin to keep things thing. Got it?

I am not going to lie to you. I have always had problems with my weight. It really kicked in when I entered adolescence. I got fat with man boobs and all. Looking back, I realize I was eating a lot in those times. I mean, I would usually eat to the extent that I had difficulty drinking water, breathing and even standing up to walk. My point is, I love food. When I was in high school I decided to save most of my allowance. In fact, I was starving myself. In that way I got thin. But that’s not what I am going to tell you to do. After high school I put on weight again. Why? Because I think that starvation is not sustainable. This is not just me. There are a lot of statistics to show this. Most people who lose weight by starving themselves return to getting fat. There goes the argument of eating little when you want to lose weight. It’s called dieting, right?

The other thing that most pros advocate alongside eating little is exercising. Exercising in itself is not bad. There problem is doing too much of it, especially when you are starving yourself. A recipe for disaster. Why? Because intensive exercise makes you hungrier. In the long run, it undermines your goal of losing weight.

As for spending less in order to save more, the financial experts usually advocate that you keep an inventory of all your expenses. I tried this. I succeeded for two weeks, although not perfectly. Then I couldn’t do it anymore. Keeping inventory of expenses is cool if you can do it. I wonder if the effort is worth the results. I felt good tracking my expenses. I used a mobile app that could plot graphs and make pie charts showing how my expenses were distributed; which even made me feel more fulfilled. After the two weeks I got lazy, so I stopped. I also realized that I couldn’t do anything about my expenses. I wasn’t buying anything fancy. Except, I realized I had to cut down on the mobile credit I was buying. So it helps to do a little of the expense tracking at least to know where your money is going. In fact, doing it consistently is the ideal. I feel like I am sounding repetitive so let’s move on.

The main problem with taking drastic decisions, which I call keeping things big, is that they are overwhelming and in the long run, often, counterproductive. What I advocate is piecemeal improvement- keeping things thin. Keeping things thin is not only about piecemeal improvement, it is also a philosophy of simplicity. Keep it simple stupid. Always. This philosophy can be applied to almost every facet of life, from friendship to reading religious text to cooking. But I would restrict myself to the two topics I have introduced in the post, weight loss and spending less.

I still don’t have my dream body. And I won’t tell you what my dream body is. I still don’t have a flat chest. But my chest is broader and flatter. My arms are tougher. My biceps are now erect even without flexing them. There was a time they were weak even when I flexed them. I see veins on my hands and feet now. That wasn’t the case in the past. Sorry for boring you with my physical details. My point is that I have improved body wise. I wish I had tracked my weight, but I don’t have a scale here in DRC. So I am not sure whether I have really lost weight although my abdomen is flatter. A lot flatter. Sometimes you can be fitter without losing weight. You might be putting on muscles which replace body fats. Muscles are also heavy. This process can make you better off without actually losing weight. My goal in doing my exercise routines and changing my eating habits has been to be healthier. Not to lose weight, which is only a symptom of getting stronger.

Just this before we get to the solution I offer. I have never been a big spender. When I have some money (not much) I give it to my mum to keep for me or I take it to the bank. I am not materialistic. When I see people flaunting money, even hip-hop music videos, my default is to think that they are dumb. I dress lousily. People tell me that a lot. I don’t know what to do about it; assuming I even care. My behaviour even borders on the pathological. I mean, I just broke my tooth brush, which makes brushing a little difficult but I don’t want to buy a new one since I can still use it. Can you imagine? I am sick. I almost only use my money to eat and buy books. If I didn’t like eating maybe I will only eat leaves and keep all the little money that comes my way in the bank, and not touch it. However, I think money is important as insurance. One never knows what can happen in the future. This reminds me of a personal tragedy my little savings really helped me with. Again, money can help me live a simple and creative life. Doing things that interest me. I used “can” because 1. I don’t have money and 2. I am not really living a creative life. So maybe you shouldn’t be listening to me at all. But those are my ideals and one can’t be creative while starving.

Now to the solutions. I will first talk about weight loss, and move on to spending less. I am not expert at any of these things. Without sounding hoarse, maybe you shouldn’t listen to me at all. But the solutions I put forward, I have applied them myself, and they have been of great help to me.

I have found what really helps me to be fitter is to make sure I am satisfied when I eat. I mean, eat enough. But here’s the catch- do not overeat. You know you are overeating, like the example I shared earlier, when you are so full you can’t ingest water or stand up to walk. You have to keep tweaking with the amount of food you eat so you know what’s enough. I eat twice a day. A heavy meal in the morning (around 10:30 a.m, so qualifies at brunch), and what would qualify for breakfast in the evening- like oats, chocolate drink and bread, or porridge. I don’t know why I was wasting my time eating lunch in my past life. I don’t say you do the same thing. But you should try it. If you feel uncomfortable doing it, stop. Don’t do the little food thing. You will be miserable. Ok? I’ve scanned (read the parts that I was interested in) through two books on healthy eating and exercising. One is the Calorie Myth and the other is the 4 Hour Body. You should check them out. You can easily download them over the net. They advocate the things I am telling you. Eat enough. Again they explain what calories really are. I won’t go into that because the post is getting longer than I intended and going into it won’t help my purpose. However, their point is that calories differ in quality. There are good calories and bad calories. So the quality of the food you eat is important. They advice that you eat a lot of legumes and vegetables, avoid white carbohydrates and fructose (sweet fruits). But I can’t afford following their advice. I try to eat vegetables. I love rice- which qualifies as white carbohydrates. I don’t see how I can replace some white carbohydrates like tubers and grains in my meals, which can allow me to live within my means, so I will continue eating them. Life is too short for all these restrictions. Even with them you won’t live to be 1,000 years. So avoid what is dangerous as much as you can. Like soft drinks. I now take them once in a while. Sometimes I thirst for them, and ah I drink them.

The other think about staying healthy is exercising. I once saw a meme that went like John exercised for two weeks. (You see a picture of a fat John running in his joggers.) Underneath, it says that John lost two weeks. Meaning, he didn’t lose weight but his time. You don’t want to be like John. However, there is a distortion in the message. First, as I have mentioned earlier, you can be fitter through your efforts without losing weight. Second, being healthy is a long term game. In fact almost anything in life worthwhile, I have found, is a long term game. The key is to be patient when life seems long. I am not as fit as I want to be but I know I am fitter than yesterday. That’s the whole point. Don’t rush. To build strength, the most results oriented exercise I have found is lifting weights. Lift barbells. It’s better to go for heavier weights than doing a lot of routines. You can decide to have weekly intensive sessions. This goes back to the Calorie Myth book. The philosopher Nassim Taleb also mentions it in his book Antifragile. Since I have been changing flats a lot these days, I make do with what’s available in the apartment. Like in my previous apartment there was no barbell. So I put water in two gallons and lifted them. In my current one, there are neither barbells or gallons, so for now I just do arm pressing, squats and leg raises.

Now we talk about spending less. This is what I do and I find it to be easier, helpful and less stressful. I don’t try to impress anyone. Whenever I’ve done that I ended up doing something stupid. So don’t be buying things to impress other people. I mean, ask yourself why you are buying something. Don’t buy an i-phone when a cheaper android can work for you.

Again, instead of keeping tap on every single expense you make, give yourself an allowance and put the rest of the money in the bank or ,better, put it in your business. So if you receive a salary, you know your needs, keep enough money on you to address those needs. You might not be sure exactly how much you need, so you can keep tweaking to find the optimum amount.

Don’t impulse buy. This is especially important if the item you are buying is expensive. If you are going to buy something expensive it’s better to think through it and not be in a hurry. In that way, you can find a most affordable price.

If you are buying something expensive, it’s better to get it from a reliable source, so that when there is a problem they can help you resolve it. Upon knowing this, I failed to heed my advice when I bought a phone from a non-shop. We are not trying to be perfect here. We only want to be better each day.

Thank you for reading.

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